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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

July 2004 Issue

Visions and Revisions
When garden soil yields toxins of a forgotten past, a Korean-American landscape architect rises to the occasion.

By Allen Freeman

Visions and Revisions
Photo courtesy Lee and Associates

We would expect toxic waste to turn up in industrial Gary, Indiana, or downstream from chemical dumps along Love Canal, but not in the manicured yards of a tony northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Yet a decade ago, all-but-forgotten environmental blunders resurfaced in that unlikely precinct. The health and economic implications were dire for a small number of affluent Washingtonians, and in a garden at the Korean ambassador's residence, the discovery of toxins had serious consequences.

Jeff Lee, ASLA, a Korean-American landscape architect with a practice in Washington, D.C., had designed the garden and tended it so rigorously since its completion in 1996 that many Koreans with ties to the embassy thought of it as his. When cleanup measures required the removal of mature trees in 1999, Lee redesigned the garden for sun. After still more toxins were found later that year, a discovery that required removal of all vegetation and topsoil, he redesigned it yet again.

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